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Nutrition, Hydration and Rest

By:  Paul Giambrone, III

I have been traveling a good bit this Spring, as usual, enjoying seeing many of the same faces and some new ones as well.  It has been a very busy time for me and one topic that keeps coming up is diet and rest when at a tournament.  You see, when you do not eat properly, rest enough or stay hydrated, it will effect your shooting at a tournament.  Why?  Simple, your eyes change.  Yes, all three of those things affect your vision.  This could be the reason why you shoot well in the morning and terrible in the afternoon.  Your eyes could be getting fatigued or affected by your diet, lack of rest or dehydration.  Let me walk you through my schedule when at a tournament.  

First off, let’s dive right into diet.  I know, it’s tough to eat properly when traveling a good bit, but hey, if you try and set your mind to it, it can be done.  For breakfast, I like to keep everything based around protein.  At the hotel, they usually have eggs and a breakfast meat.  If I am particularly hungry, I may have a slice of dry wheat toast.  The idea is to keep the meal as clean as possible, not full of sugar, starch or processed stuff.  Protein based items keep your blood sugar nice and consistent for hours, instead of minutes like carbohydrates and sugar.  I’ll accompany that with water, maybe a small glass of juice.  Stay away from the caffeine coffee drinkers!  That’s right, no caffeine for me on shooting days.  I have enough adrenaline running through my veins when I shoot, I don’t need an external source to add to the nerves. If I am shooting early (10:30 or sooner), this should get me through the event.  If not, I will snack on some beef jerky, peanuts, almonds, cashews…  Not potato chips, sugars or starches.  If you have a big lull in energy, try a fruit accompanied with some nuts.  I would like to add that if we shoot early, I like to wake up a minimum of 2 hours before shooting time.  That way I am fully awake and alert before taking the field and I have a chance to get a good, healthy breakfast.  This also allows you plenty of time to get to the gun club and get all of your things together without rushing and allows you to start on time.  Once completed with the morning rotation, we will leave the gun club and go grab a healthy lunch.  My favorite would be a chopped salad from Subway with a meat and plenty of veggies to fill me up.  If you have the need for some caffeine, go ahead and grab an unsweetened iced tea.  Stay away from the sodas (even diet drinks due to processed items within the diet drink and artificial sweeteners) and the cookies.  Once lunch is done, get back to the hotel or your place of stay and rest.  This doesn’t necessarily mean go to sleep, but put the phone away, the laptop, etc and just relax.  Do something that requires little to no mental energy.

I believe this is where a lot of shooters fail.  They will eat a really big lunch and pass out OR they try to go right back to the gun club without resting.  You are setting yourself up for failure.  You will not have the energy to shoot the afternoon flight and will probably shoot far worse than you did that morning.  Resting between events and just allowing yourself to mentally take a break is vital.  That way you have the mental energy to focus later in the day!  This is one of the primary reasons why most of the top shooters leave between events.  It’s not to be antisocial, it’s to rest!  Also, throughout the day, I am drinking plenty of water.  Staying hydrated starts well in advance.  I drink a gallon of water a day and I do that regularly.  It’s actually pretty rare for me to not drink an entire gallon of water throughout my day.  Water does so much for the body, but it needs to have a little salt to go with it.  That’s why I like the beef jerky and nuts for snacks to add some salt.  Not a ton of salt, but just enough to where your body will retain the water instead of just peeing it all out.  It’s the perfect balance that allows our eyes and mind to remain sharp throughout the grueling weekend shooting 500 targets.  

Once we are done with our afternoon rotation, if shoot-offs start within the next hour or so, we’ll find a parking spot to hang out and relax.  If not, we’ll leave the gun club.  Again, getting away from everything allows you to relax mentally and get geared up for the shoot-offs later.  Try to take in water and small snacks only at this point to stay sharp.  Stay away from the candy bars and potato chips again.  If you are feeling low on energy, a banana will be a big helper accompanied with nuts.  Once the shoot-offs are over, now you can have a bigger meal (if you choose), but still try to stay away from the sugars and the starches!  Meat and veggies with a salad is plenty!  This is a good diet plan in general, but really makes a difference when you are at tournaments.  I try to eat this way starting at least a month out of tournament season so my body can get used to any changes made to my diet.  In a perfect world, I would eat like this year round, but hey, I live in Louisiana.  It’s hard to resist the delicious food that New Orleans produces!

Alright, so the day is over and we have had dinner, what about partaking in a cocktail or two?  Do so at your own risk.  Yes, I have been know to enjoy a drink or two at the end of the day with friends, but that is where it stops.  Alcohol will dehydrate you and depending on what type of drink, you maybe flooding your body with sugar.  All of which is bad for your rest, your eyes and your mental performance for the rest of the weekend.  I’m not trying to be a party pooper, but if you want to compete and shoot at your best, these are the things you have to do.  When the night is winding down, I want to be sure that the last drink is served no less than 12 hours before shooting time the next day.  For example, if you are shooting the 9:00 AM rotation the next morning, last drink for you (if you have one) is 9:00 PM the night before.  I like to also get 8 hours of sleep and wake up at least two hours before I shoot.  So that means I am waking up no later than 7:00 AM and I will be in bed and sleeping by 11:00 PM the night before.  This will top off the entire package by getting enough rest the night before that way you are fresh to start the next day and the process starts all over.  A good clean breakfast in the morning, snacks as needed throughout the day while drinking plenty of water, small and healthy protein based lunch, meat and vegetables for dinner.  

How do all of these things effect the eyes?  First off, blood sugar is crucial to keeping your eyes healthy and seeing their best.  When the blood sugar spikes or gets low, your eyes do not function the way they are supposed to (especially for diabetics).  This can cause your non-shooting eye to take over in the middle of a shot and basically scramble all of your correct sight pictures.  Easy way to avoid this, eat correctly and healthy.  The other item is hydration.  The fluid that is in your eyes relies heavily on being hydrated.  If you are dehydrated, the viscosity of the eye fluid thickens and you will notice floaters a lot more when the fluid is like this.  Causing more distractions and problems.  When you are hydrated, the fluid is much thinner, allowing the floaters and sediment to settle at the bottom of your eyes and stay there while you are shooting.  Proper rest, do I really need to explain the need for proper rest?  Mentally, you are much sharper at that 7-8 hour of sleep mark than anywhere else.  Too much or not enough sleep can leave you groggy the next day and not sharp.  We need to bring our A game when we go to tournaments, so why not take care of some of these basic items in our everyday lives to make it easier on ourselves?

Tip of the month: Try out some different protein based snacks when going to practice for the day.  Even if you don’t feel hungry, if it has been awhile since you had something to eat, grab a snack and some water.  You’d be surprised how that little snack can really energize you, especially your mental sharpness and your vision.  Also, try doing this routine over a weekend of practice.  In other words, pretend you are at a tournament and practice these items.  Go out to the gun club and shoot 100 targets in the morning, get away and have a small lunch and rest a little.  Go back out that afternoon for another 100 and see how it goes!  You will enjoy the results and find it easier to focus on your mental routine and focus better on the targets that afternoon.